Farming News - Mixed responses from farming groups to Govt's Food Strategy White Paper

Mixed responses from farming groups to Govt's Food Strategy White Paper

14 Jun 2022

Roger Kerr Organic Farmers & Growers

“Like many commentators, we were hoping for a robust and clearly defined action plan from the Food Strategy White Paper. What we have instead is yet more rhetoric.

“As the largest certifier of organic land in the UK, OF&G seeks to ensure that organic is fairly and equitably represented in government policy.  Mr Johnson has said he is ‘supporting UK farmers’ but this does not transpire within the white paper.

“There is a stark contrast between our own policy framework and those of both the US and the EU. Our global competitors have issued clear commitments to developing the organic sector, with the USDA recently establishing a $300m Organic Transition Initiative to provide comprehensive support for farmers moving to organic production. Closer to home, the European Commission’s Food to Fork strategy includes €186m support to promote organic and sustainable farming.

“Although our own administration appears to recognise organic as a ‘higher environmental standard’ they completely fail to recognise the significant commercial and environmental opportunity that exists.  The food system is incredibly complex, but others are grasping the commercial possibilities while recognising the fundamental link between human and ecological health that organic simultaneously delivers on.

“With 20% of the world’s nitrogen fertiliser and 40% of its potassium unavailable due to western sanctions, the inadequacies of this ‘business as usual’ Food Strategy must be addressed as a matter of urgency. Sadly, the government lacks the ambition to step away from a flawed food system that’s been embraced over the last seventy years. It has left us at the tipping point of an environmental and human health crisis which has the potential to be catastrophic unless decisive action is taken.” 

Mark Tufnell CLA

“It is encouraging to see that the National Food Strategy has a significant focus on the agricultural sector. New data transparency measures, the aim for 50% of public sector food spend to be from local producers or certified to higher standards, funding priorities for horticulture, regenerative farming and alternative proteins are some of the long-term examples of steps in the right direction. However, it’s not clear how any of this is going to be implemented, in addition to not knowing details of the various funding required at this stage.

“There are issues which must be tackled in the short term, however. Domestic food security, fairness in the supply chain and workforce issues are key areas which need to be addressed immediately. The additional visas for the Seasonal Workers Visa Route are welcome, however it is crucial that the government drive innovation and work closely with industry to create stability in the farm-to-fork supply chain going into 2023.” 

Minette Batters NFU

“The National Food Strategy represents a clear milestone with the government recognising the importance of domestic food production, maintaining our productive capacity and growing more food in this country, particularly at a time when the war in Ukraine has focused attention on the importance and fragility of our global food security. Food production will always be core to a nation’s resilience and I’m pleased the government has recognised this.

“Domestic food production and environmental delivery go hand-in-hand and we are proud that British farmers have an ambition to reach net zero by 2040, while still maintaining our current levels of food production.

“We know the public want to be eating more local, British food and farmers are ready to play their part in producing high quality and climate-friendly food, all while protecting and enhancing our environment. We now need to see this strategy develop into clear delivery and investment to capitalise on the benefits food and farming delivers for the country, such as our world-leading standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and food safety.”

Christopher Price Rare Breeds Survival Trust

 “We welcome the Government’s continued vision for environmental sustainability alongside food production, and its recognition of the role of grazing livestock to benefit the environment. But momentum has been lost in turning words into action. This is another missed opportunity to kickstart real transformation, backed by the right support, for the future of the UK’s food, farming and land management.

“There is a glaring omission of any plan to address the decline of the local abattoir network, which is one of the greatest barriers to the growth of high welfare, environmentally sustainable and nutritious production with native livestock breeds as part of local food networks. In addition the focus in gene-editing for health and welfare improvements is misplaced, Government ought instead support the attainment of health and welfare improvements through traditional breeding techniques in regenerative agroecological systems.”

George Dunn TFA

Having had several decades of relative calm, recent events have highlighted the vulnerability of our food supply system. It is particularly pleasing to see the Government put to bed the idea that domestic food production is not important to our food security - the new strategy makes it clear that domestic food production matters by giving us national resilience.

"The strategy also identifies that maintaining or improving domestic food production guards against offshoring food production to other countries where food is produced to lower carbon efficiency and environmental standards”.

Clare Oxborrow Friends of the Earth

“The government promised it would revolutionise our broken food system. Instead, it has chosen to ignore much of the vision and ambition set out in Henry Dimbleby’s review.

“Ministers can’t seem to grasp that a thriving, resilient, food and farming system must be built on the foundations of a healthy environment. Meat and dairy production is a key driver of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, yet there’s barely any mention of it in the new strategy.

“While it’s positive that the government will investigate how best to encourage healthier, and more sustainable eating, meat and dairy must be a focal point of this. If we’re to meet our climate goals, we need to see a dramatic reduction in the amount eaten. This is still possible, but the government must support nature-friendly farming alongside a mantra of eating less, but better quality meat and dairy.”

The plan can be read here: